Bill Ryder-Jones

ONE of Merseyside's worst kept secrets, Bill Ryder-Jones has had a whirlwind of a year, releasing his third album, West Kirby County Primary, touring around Europe and being shortlisted for the 2016 GIT Award.

Starting his career as lead guitarist of The Coral, Ryder-Jones has made a successful career out of being lyrical genius, creating truly mind-blowing works of art.

His latest album, West Kirby County Primary offered a melancholic warmth against a backdrop of sombre emotion, attracting a wealth of support from his many listeners, leading to Bill reaching out to his fans to talk to him if they wished.

Now set to embark on a summer of festivals The Music Manual spoke to Bill on a bitter spring morning, finding out about his thoughts on his GIT Award nomination, his place on the Sound City billing with his ex-band and what he's watching on Netflix.

How did you feel about being nominated at this years GIT Awards?

It didn’t cross my mind that I’d be nominated this year to be honest with you, it’s never something you’d expect and maybe I assumed they were more for artists starting out – well maybe I am starting out and I don’t realise it. It feels like I’ve been in it forever, it’s a nice surprise to be recognised. It’s nice to be appreciated.

Are you rooting for any of your fellow nominees?

Well yeah, the groups I’ve worked with, it’s quite a small musical city – Trudy, Stealing Sheep and Hooton Tennis Club are three bands I think deserve recognition.

Do you think there should be more recognition for local bands?

I’m not really sure, in all honesty, these things are nice but I think recognition is something you either get or you don’t and I always try to say to people that I work with it’s about being happy and getting a chance to create and explain yourself then that’s your recognition and anything other that is not to be expected. It’s so rare, I can certainly think of specific cases of bands for example By The Sea who deserve more, than some other bands. I tell you what, recognition no but it’d be great for other bands could get help releasing and putting music out there but recognition is deserved, you have to earn it.

Announced as playing Sound City – will you be around all weekend?

I’m not sure, the reason being I know roughly which dates I’ll be in and out of the country and if I’m missing anyone’s birthday but essentially I will be, all the people I want to see are on the same day as me really.

Who will you be looking to see?

Well, just me really – I’ll stick around to see The Coral, I haven’t seen them play since I left.

Will it be strange to see them?

I think so, it will have to be strange.

I mean even seeing them without Lee, let alone the fact that I’m going to be watching it. I’ve never seen the band you know, I’ve watched videos of us so I think I’ll stick for that.

Will there be any guest appearances?

No, god no, I think I’ll just play my songs, have a drink and watch them play theirs. In the nicest possible way, I’ve not even thought about it.

Yeah, I think once I’ve finished my job that’s that and i'll enjoy the music.

How do you feel with Pete Doherty headlining the North Stage?

If you’re going to appreciate an artist because of the certain streaks or a way of living they've got then that’s why his songs touch people.

He probably acts like a d**khead most of the time but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and I feel the same way about myself, I’ve had to cancel a few shows and I’ve felt terrible about it, you don’t really want to do it and don’t want to let people down who have put money into it but ultimately you have to put your hands up and say well hang on if you like us then part of the reason why you like us is because of the way I am and the way I am sadly is this side and it's equal to the reasons why I write songs and all that.

Although I love that first Libertines record I’ve not really been excited by their latest stuff.

But you know what that’s what good about those festivals, if I’m sticking around to see The Coral I may wander and see what’s going on - I kind of enjoy to see things I haven’t before and stumble upon a gem.

I’ll definitely be checking out Neon Waltz, The Dandy Warhols and Circa Waves. Circa Waves are quite nice lads they’ve said some really supportive things about us so it’ll be good to meet them.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

No I’m kind of boring, I try and stop smoking an hour before I go on, our drummer Jack does a funny thing, putting our hands in a circle and he’ll say something funny about the place we’re playing or an in-joke and it raises the spirits a little bit so we’re all looking forward to playing.

But no there’s no yoga or energy ball, nothing like that.

Like the older I’m getting, I may drink a honey and ginger before I go on. Our songs aren’t particularly hard to sing so I don’t have to worry about it.

You had a couple of sell-out dates on your tour, where was your favourite place to play?

We did some great ones, I had this really good idea to play all the Northern industrial towns that people tend not to go to which was hard because a lot of those towns are quite bleak and not particularly taken care of. Places like Scunthorpe, Preston, Wigan and Hull, those places that you unfortunately don’t play when you reach a 'certain level'.

Because it's me and the band, we don’t tour as much as most people, we’re slowly chipping away at it. The Scala show in London was pretty good because there was 8 to 900 people there, and its nice because three years ago we were only playing to like 100 people in London. It was good energy.

Manchester is always good, like Liverpool but they don’t talk as much! The Arts Club date was fantastic but that was strange one, it was quite subdued especially after last year when we played one there. It was the weekend and it was a bit rowdy but this one was a touch withheld.

But then we went to Barcelona - it was really cool to go there. We didn’t take my normal guitar and then my bass player got ill so we ended up doing a three-piece which was interesting!

Do you go adventuring?

A little bit, as much as hangovers will allow, but in Barcelona we had a good nose about and a good walk around.

I mean I got the train there because I’m not keen on flying. I got the train to London, Eurostar to Paris and from Paris to Barcelona, that was an eight hour adventure and surprisingly straightforward. You're in a double-decker train, you have WiFi and dead big seats, it’s f***ing great.

How do you spend your time at home?

I can’t sit still for too long so normally after a big run I may spend time in bed for a day or two. So in the flat I get up late, maybe have a little walk into the village, go home, sleep and watch Netflix - just like anyone would on their day off.

Normally I just spend a couple of days doing that, then I’m in the studio.

Today I’m in my studio in West Kirby and I’ll work on some new songs and piss about. Playing the drums, annoying the neighbours, seeing my ma and about 2 o’clock then i'll be going back to sleep!

What do you watch on Netflix?

Anything, I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t watched yet. I’ve just re-watched all the Sopranos - although I know that's not on Netflix!
Charlotte Patmore

Better Call Saul, Peep Show or Alan Partridge, always safe.

Are you working on your own material?

Bit of both, I've been producing a guy called Adam Day from Brighton who’s band is called The Watercolours and that’s been really good.

We did a bit of that in Parr Street but it didn't quite pan out. That’s one of the only few sessions that I've come out and thought that didn't really sound as good as it should so he came up last week and we did three days in mine, kicking about over a few things so I’ll be looking over that today.

It's kind of weird because before I got involved in the album, tour cycle thing I used to just write continuously and I still do to an extent but I’ve noticed it is rare that I can write well when I’m working so much.

I can write one or two so I very much feel like I’m at the start of the next process so it can get really frustrating because you know i’ll get into a purple patch - the writing will pick up but that’s down to putting the hours down so be prepared for a good song in the future!

Do you think your next album will move away from the sounds of West Kirby County Primary?

There’s certainly three or four more livelier moments that I’ve never really done before but I’m enjoying finding the balance between the last two records and I don’t see any big change coming, I’m quite comfortable with what I do and the next record won’t be a million miles away from the third.

All the songs will be about what’s going on in my life and what’s happened in the past and I certainly won't be concerned with any big shift like Radiohead might do.

Some songs, are left over from the last record and we just couldn’t get them finished so you know there’ll be a gradual shift and I like that, it just kind of feel comfortable in what I’m doing and keep doing it, I’m not out to blow minds in particularly, I just carry on.

Keith Ainsworth
Are you a big supporter of record store day?

I think it’s a good thing, I don’t do anything for it though – I don’t have a record player any more. I’ve got a ton of vinyl but it's one of those things, like next time I get my wage, advance or commission I’ll get a record player but then you’ll have to pay those bills and then it's like oh f**k yeah I forgot about that.

I think it’s good, it’s done a lot of good for the record sales and I think it should be proud of itself and there’s a couple of really good record stores like Dig and Probe.

And what Anthony Nyland has done at Dig has been a big success story along with the Jac (The Jacaranda) has done upstairs with the booths and record players – I think it’s really good. I think it teaches young listeners to value music as well.

There’s this ambiguous sense from downloading because it doesn't really exist anywhere just between devices. So to get people actually holding the product they can visualise and understand the cost and work that’s gone into it, not some faceless abstract collection of songs, an actual real body and I think as long as the internet people decide to start paying musicians properly then we have to do things like selling vinyl and physical releases.

There has been a lot of comments made about Spotify in the past, where do you sit?

You know I was well proud of Spotify when it started, they really tried to readdress the balance. Before Spotify, people genuinely thought they could steal music illegally and it was rife, we all did it. Then they came along and brought the balance, we should be paying this.

And now it has become quite a big business and it’s quite depressing because I went to their offices and you see how much money is going through that place - it’s ridiculous like fridges full of spring water and f***ing huge fruit baskets and sound systems in every room. They’re really good to me so on the whole I’m down with Spotify, I’m cool with it, I just think the balance in the industry is all wrong.

I think to be big, to make me and anyone else any money they have to have the big boys streaming on the site and have them paying a premium to big record labels and I get that their hands are tied.

Obviously no-one would go on Spotify if they didn’t have the big sellers. I don’t know how they would readdress the balance but I trust what they’re trying to do, they’re not a soulless organisation, they’re trying to do the best that they can.

Your music videos are a work of art, do you get involved with the filming process?

They’re funny aren’t they!

I never really took interest in videos, I don’t watch em’ but I realise their worth and I've got to be a friend who does my bit. I’ve found a love of them through my mate and it’s rubbed off on me. I also think, what was good about this ‘campaign’ well, album, is that if anyone knows us around town or West Kirby know I’m not actually as f***ing miserable as the music can often suggest.

I think that’s why it was a conscious decision with the album artwork with a bit of a silly photo and the Wild Roses video which is the football one. The subject matter for those songs is pretty heavy but its only a part of who I am and I like the fact we can joke and make fun of ourselves. There's nothing worse is then a lad in a band trying to be sexy in front of a camera singing a song and it’s the opposite of why you make music for me.

In my career I've learnt to posture a bit on stage but like looking at a camera and miming, trying to be cool I haven‘t got the energy for it, just look like a fraud in f***ing leather kecks, There’s plenty of them out there.

Who came up with the idea of photo-shopping your pics?

That’s my manager's assistant, she’s a cracking woman her like. 'Socials', which is a phrase I’ve had to learn, are super important. I run the Instagram and Twitter, I mean I say run but I RT things and post pictures of my mum’s animals and that’s about it.

But they lay out the Facebook, and say you need to be more active on it and I was like well I don’t want to be, so they’ve been running it, I mean I reply to people but when it comes to saying we have a gig here, there who wants to do that.

Annoyingly the Facebook page has been doing better than the Instagram and twitter so it’s obviously more attended and she does all these funny things with it. We’re over 10,000 likes on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are falling behind so I’ve got to up my game.

I really like the one where we went to Scotland and they put our heads on the guys with kilts, it's really funny that one!

How is your relationship with your fans? 

They’re all lovely the people who follow my music, they’re all gorgeous.

I had a funny encounter in Sheffield were a girl studying there was from China and she made me this beautiful piece of artwork and sent it up to me so she came the gig early and bless her like there’s a language barrier, she speaks good English but there are still subtleties, anyway she came up to me and goes “You are erm, fatter than last time?” and I was like f***ing hell, trying not to laugh in her face so I said: "No, I am a bit fatter thank you!" and she said: “I don’t know if that is wrong?!” and I was like: "A bit but it’s true as well so fair do’s to yer!"

Saying the word fan is a bit condescending to the people who genuinely enjoy what I do.

They’re the people I want my music to speak to, and want to associate with, people who necessarily aren't the most confident. I get some beautiful messages from people privately who relate to songs and hand on heart that’s not why I do it at all.

They all get written in my bedroom when I’m either a bit miserable or I’ve got a few hours and something doesn’t feel too nice or good about something. But when people respond, you know those kind of people it makes you feel a bit better about the narcissism and the guilt of being someone who is out there and trying to make the world pay attention to them, which essentially is what putting records out is.

I’d certainly much rather speak to those people rather than the football Kasabian element of the world, not like there’s anything wrong with that but they’re the type of people who used to make my life f***ing hell in school and I don’t know why.

I guess I’d much rather have someone message me personally on the internet than hug me pissed up, and tell me “F***INNN THE CORRRAAALLL” in my ear like. Anyway!

Get yourself a copy of West Kirby County Primary here.

Words Lauren Jones


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